Picking up Patrick Taylor’s ‘The Wily O’Reilly’ is like being in a noisy High Street but suddenly finding oneself down a side alley in a shaded courtyard with benches to sit on. An escape from the modern world. It is a collection of the author’s monthly humorous pieces written in the 1990s and set in time some thirty years before that.

The main character throughout is the larger-than-life figure of Dr Fingal O’Reilly, GP in a small Northern Irish town. Fictional it needs to be to allow the author latitude in his story telling, but nevertheless comfortably believable enough for the armchair reader.

What sets this book apart is not so much the story lines; at the end of each episode things remain very much unchanged in the town of Ballybucklebo. It is the author’s mastery of the English language, in particular his grasp of imagery that I enjoyed the most. On several occasions I had to resort to Dictionary.com to verify obscure but perfectly apt words. A flavour of his writing:

  • ‘…such suggestions were usually greeted with the enthusiasm towards an impending monsoon of those peculiar toads that live in states of total dehydration in certain deserts, only coming to full animation when the rains appear.’
  • ‘He rummaged in the pocket of his rumpled jacket, produced a briar, stoked it with the enthusiasm of Beelzebub preparing the coals for an unrepentant sinner, and fired up the tobacco…’
  • ‘…his cortical processes would have made the workings of a Pentium chip look like the slow grinding of an unwound grandfather clock.’The Wily O'Reilly

I rather wished I’d been introduced to the author via one of his novels. Reading pieces written a month apart makes for repetition. A book that is best read maybe in small chunks at bedtime.

A reminder of days long gone, never to return. Probably not a book that the younger reader will pick up with enthusiasm but fans of the author will be mightily pleased that his journal writings have been gathered together between two covers.

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